Every Monday during the high school basketball season, I take a moment to look at the week that was for area teams.
As far as the scoreboard is concerned, they are only worth two points. Anybody who watches high school basketball, though, knows a well-timed dunk can be worth much more.
A ball thunderously thrown into the hoop can swing momentum like nothing else. It can rally the troops, it can turn a lead into a blowout and it can tell the opponent, “good luck stopping us all game.”
This season, though, they have been a rarity.
Perhaps Stephens County is just spoiled. With last year’s senior class including guys like Jared Griffin (Duncan), Daniel McCoy (Duncan), Ryan Cox (Duncan), Corbin Byford (Velma-Alma), Eric Brownlee (Comanche) and Ronnie Keck (Bray-Doyle), who could elevate at a moment’s notice, maybe I just accustomed to seeing something that should be special and unique in high school basketball.
Whatever the case may be, I know that I am missing the high-flying action this year.
There are still a few players that have shown the ability to play above the rim — Jack Braught at Duncan and Jaz Gayanich at Velma-Alma to name two — but the list is much shorter this season.
As someone who stands between 6-foot-2 and 6-3 and used to be able to play ever-so-slightly above the rim (these days I’d be lucky to touch it), I spent way too much time trying to dunk, when I should have been working on more important things like jump shooting. There is a proper balance, though, I’m sure, and being able to change the tone of a game on one play shouldn’t be overlooked.
To be a great basketball player often means to put winning right now above everything else. Having a cutthroat attitude, determination and focus. (Think of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird or Kobe Bryant).
A trait that may be just as important, though less admired, is the ability to sacrifice immediate success in return for even greater success down the road. (Think of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who benched his best players at times last season, so they would be healthy enough to make a run to the Western Conference Finals last season).
The Duncan boys’ and girls’ teams are trying something similar at the high school level. They are not focusing on their current records. In fact, after several losses, their players and coaches have been surprisingly chipper. It’s because they know December and January don’t really matter. They are just working to be peaking in February, when the playoffs begin and when “important” games start.
The Velma-Alma Comets have played in two regular-season tournament finals this season. They have been runner-ups twice, dropping their own tournament and the Black Diamond Tournament in close games.
There is a reason teams play in these regular season tournaments: To learn how to play tournament basketball. Being able to play one night, turn around the next night and play a team with no practice isn’t easy, and it takes practice.
It’s hard to doubt the Comets’ talent this season, but the one area that could be brought into question is their killer instinct in tournament championships.
Perhaps, after losing two finals, Velma-Alma will have lost confidence and will be nervous in close games. Or, perhaps they will play with a chip on their shoulder, learning from their failings and taking out their frustration on any team that takes the floor against them with a title on the line.
Greg Crews is sports editor of The Duncan Banner. He can be reached at 580-255-5354 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.